This article is part of a series, chronicling a foolish attempt to chronicle the history of modern pop, through the Now That’s What I Call Music series. All the previous articles, and some other fun stuff, can be found here.
Released- 20th March 1989
The decade is drawing to a close, hopefully leaving saxophones and ‘glossy’ production with it. Musically, it seems like all is in a sense of stasis, waiting for something new to push things forward. Madonna manages to offend the Catholic church, 2 Live Crew offend all of mankind, and De La Soul release one of the greatest albums of all time, in 3 Feet High and Rising.
Damn I’m 5 years old! I am at primary school. I have a Thomas the Tank Engine bag. I think I’m just starting to get an obsession with Egon Spengler of the Ghostbusters. RIP Harold Ramis, you made me proud to be geeky.
If I had to save one track from this album, and the remainder thrown in the lake, along with my shoes, that track would be… The Last of the Famous International Playboys by Morrissey. Thus making him the first artist to have won two ‘best in show’ awards thus far. Not that it would cheer him up any. Never change Stephen. Never change. Honourable mentions for Fine Young Cannibals and Poison, bot of whom would have deserved this prestigious title too.
Track by track breakdown
Marc Almond featuring Gene Pitney : “Something’s Gotten Hold of My Heart”
A lovely start to the album. Two parts vintage pop to one part high camp drama. Nothing not to like here.
Phil Collins : “Two Hearts”
Bouncing, sentimental, and a bit of a joy. Like Motown, but with a much weaker, reedier singer. Luckily, the song is strong enough to paper over any weaknesses.
Erasure : “Stop!”
Not their quirky best, but it has its merits, bolstered by a terrible but watchable video.
Bananarama / LaNaNeeNeeNooNoo : “Help!”
Much like the latest Band Aid, it’s all going to a good cause. Which helps with the fact this is to covers what waterboarding is to a pleasant hello.
Hue And Cry : “Looking for Linda”
AOR slowie, partially redeemed by amusing lyrics about packets of ciggies and Leeds train station.
Yazz : “Fine Time”
After two complete and satisfying house classics, Yazz go all Sade on us. It’s not unlistenable, but nowhere near the heights they previously hit.
Kim Wilde : “Four Letter Word”
Love may be a four letter word. So is dull.
Sam Brown : “Stop”
Yes, it’s a little bit Magic FM (105.4) but don’t let that harm the fact it’s properly good soulful balladry. With Hammond organ. You have to love a good squelchy Hammond organ.
Roy Orbison : “You Got It”
Even the greatest have a bad day. Hard to believe that this substandard schmaltz came from the same man who wrote Cryin’, possibly the greatest expression of romantic anguish ever.
Fine Young Cannibals : “She Drives Me Crazy”
Simply the funnest song they ever made. When he goes Woo-oo in the chorus, it’s exactly how the song itself makes you feel in your soul. Yay.
INXS : “Need You Tonight”
The rest of the song never really ever matches up to the bassline, and the amazing opening riff. They are still worshipped in Australia, as one might worship an angry god that must be appeased.
Status Quo : “Burning Bridges (On and Off and On Again)”
It’s actually a really good Status Quo song. Sadly it’s been ruined by it’s repurposing in 1994 as the Manchester United FA cup song, Come on you Reds. While I miss the annual tradition of the FA cup song, that one was inescapable and bloody annoying. I still think the lyrics include “Robson, Kanchelskis and Giggs”.
Then Jerico : “Big Area”
I had thought by this point in the 80’s, that the emergence of Guns n Roses and Public Enemy had killed off this faux heavy sound. Even in 1989, I imagine this sounded behind the curve.
Morrissey : “The Last of the Famous International Playboys”
The best Morrissey song to feature yet. One of my absolute favourites. The funniest and most Morrissey song to yet feature on a Now album.
Poison : “Every Rose Has Its Thorn”
If, as I do, you love the Bill and Ted films, you’ll know that this song contains the meaning of life.
Simple Minds : “Belfast Child”
The sheer level of nowhere this song manages to go is impressive in its own right.
Neneh Cherry : “Buffalo Stance”
I absolutely love the middle section where she can’t be sure whether she’s from LA or Sarf Lahndan. Great fun song, and having the Brits represented this early on in hip hop is a progressive move by the track selectors.
Inner City : “Good Life”
Lyrically limited chorus, but it really works. Especially when the music actually feels pretty bleak in comparison to the sentiment. I do so like some ironic juxtaposition.
S’Express : “Hey Music Lover”
Nowhere near as good as Theme from…, but a pleasingly left field track nonetheless. They are doomed to one hit wonderdom.
Living in a Box : “Blow the House Down”
Tries desperately to claw for funkiness, but the overproduction and constipated pub rock singing leave it well short of the mark.
The Style Council : “Promised Land”
Paul Weller embraces house. Try setting fire to yourself. Done? More fun than this.
Adeva : “Respect”
A nice bridge between disco and house. But yes, when you compare it to Aretha Franklin, it doesn’t even come close. An entertaining novelty, but you’d never choose it over the original.
Tone Lōc : “Wild Thing”
Slightly Rick Rubinesque hip hop. Absolutely without lyrical merit, but jolly good nonetheless. And with some musical merit. The sleaziness of the guitar line matches the lyrical content perfectly.
Natalie Cole : “I Live for Your Love”
Another one that just happens. Some background noise with no merit, no flaws. Nothing.
Robin Beck : “First Time”
It sounds like one of those songs that might play over the credits of an 80’s summer blockbuster, but completely miss the tone of the film. Placeholder balladry, with an enjoyably overblown guitar solo.
Paula Abdul : “Straight Up”
She has been famous for nothing for so long, I had forgotten she’d recorded some alright songs. And this is alright. Has its moments, definitely listenable, if not anything world changing.
Samantha Fox : “I Only Wanna Be with You”
A classic, stripped of any charm by a synthpop rejig, by a former page 3 girl. The more things change…
Brother Beyond : “Be My Twin”
It’s not a great song, but think about how disturbing the metaphor is. They essentially want to commit incest with an exact genetic match of themselves. Yucky.
Climie Fisher : “Love Like a River”
It tries, endearingly, to sound much more meaningful and inspiring than it actually is, bless it’s cotton socks. It’s a self help book in musical form…
Duran Duran : “All She Wants Is”
Plenty dark and bleak. I like it. I also very much like the sinister, none more 80’s video.
Level 42 : “Tracie”
Probably the best Level 42 song to feature on a Now album. Stays in a low funk groove, and benefits from not trying to reach any further.
Michael Ball : “Love Changes Everything
This was not made for people like me. The musical equivalent of a poem in a Hallmark card. But good version of what it is.
Final verdict: 15.5 from a possible 32, or 49%. The last couple of Now albums I have had to deal with are both in the bottom three now. Now 15 had better turn matters around, else I may just give up, never reaching the 90’s.